Animal observation data on and near roads are critical to understanding wildlife vehicle conflict (WVC). The California Highway Patrol (CHP), which helps to monitor and maintain safety on California roads, also report incidents of “animal hazards”, “live or dead animal” and crashes involving animals, providing a continuous source of WVC records. These incidents often include collisions with mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), which pose serious risks during collisions due to their large size. CHP report their observations in real-time through their own public-facing web-system. We developed a web-system to harvest and automatically ingest these real-time CHP reports called the California Highway Incident Processing System (CHIPS). We used a custom data-scraping protocol to collect the data every 15 minutes from the CHP site and update the CHIPS database. The data were maintained in an SQL database and is queried periodically providing data to automated “pipelines” for use in various tools and services. One online tool is the Real-time Deer Incidents & Wildlife-Vehicle Conflict (WVC) Hotspots map (https://roadecology.ucdavis.edu/hotspots/map), which shows real-time and recent animal incidents on top of a hotspots analysis map (generated from the Road Ecology Center’s hotspots tool). The location data is accurate to approximately 10 to 20 meters, which enables the individual records to be associated with a county and highway. The CHP officers often include detailed descriptions about the animals’ fates, including whether they were injured, or had to be dispatched. Using these data, we have met a variety of needs in California: 1) approximately once per month we receive and meet ad hoc requests for data from agency, consultant and academic scientists; 2) we produce an annual WVC hotspots report; and 3) we have developed the only continuously-maintained repository for WVC in the state. Most recently, we used these data to demonstrate that the rate of WVC declined during the COVID-19 shelter at home orders from the state government. These tools and data are critical aids to decision making; for example, clustered hotspots of incidents can indicate where wildlife mitigation measures can be taken, such as building a wildlife overpass.
Automated harvesting and display of WVC and crash data in California